Changes to Look for in Your Loved One
It can often be hard to tell when aging is affecting a family member. Don't ignore the warning signs, because small things can add up to a larger challenge fast. If you notice certain changes in your loved one, it might be time to seek outside help:
- Changes in relationships with family and friends.
- Withdrawal from social interactions.
- Unusual behavior, such as increased agitation, speaking loudly or little talking at all.
- Neglecting personal care, such as hygiene or nutrition.
- Signs of forgetfulness, such as piles of unopened mail, unwashed laundry and scorched or dirty cookware.
- Mismanagement of finances, such as unpaid bills or unusual purchases.
Care for Yourself
Studies consistently show that people who provide care to loved ones suffer from higher levels of depression than their non-caregiving peers. Do not set aside your own needs as a caregiver. You are the most important person in the caregiving process. If you allow yourself to become overwhelmed, you can no longer care for your loved one and may find that it's harder to take care of yourself.
To avoid the high levels of stress associated with caregiving:
- Monitor your health. If you find yourself physically or mentally weaker, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
- Set aside a few hours a week of down time outside of the home, maybe lunch with friends or an afternoon at the park.
- Stay connected to others. Do not allow yourself to become isolated from friends or other family members.
- See a counselor to discuss the effects of your newfound role as caregiver.
- Attend caregiver support group meetings.
Facts on Family Caregiving
- “23% of family caregivers caring for loved ones for 5 years or more report their health is fair or poor.”
Caregiving in the United States; National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP; November 2009
- “Stress of family caregiving for persons with dementia has been shown to impact a person's immune system for up to three years after their caregiving ends thus increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves.”
Drs. Janice-Kiecolt Glaser and Ronald Glaser, “Chronic stress and age-related increases in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 30, 2003.
- “Nearly three quarters (72%) of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves. 63% of caregivers report having poor eating habits than non-caregivers and 58% indicate worse exercise habits than before caregiving responsibilities.”
Evercare Study of Caregivers in Decline: A Close-Up Look at Health Risks of Caring for a Loved One. National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare. 2006.
Facts Obtained from the National Family Caregiver Association
Family Support Resources
Children of Aging Parents
Family Caregiving 101
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